Fortescue appeals to high court in native title case

Fortescue Metals Group has lodged an application to appeal a federal court decision that awarded the Yindjibarndi people exclusive rights to a section of Pilbara land where the company operates Soloman Hub.

The company has reinforced that the court’s decision does not impact its current or future operations or mining tenure at the Solomon hub.

Fortescue chief executive officer Elizabeth Gaines said the application to appeal to the high court regards the right to exclusive possession, due to the potential implications it may have on future mining, agriculture and tourism development.

“We accept and have always accepted the Yindjibarndi people’s non-exclusive native title rights and interests over the relevant area,” Gaines said.

“Our application for special leave to appeal to the high court turns on a point of law regarding the right to exclusive possession, with potential implications for a range of industries.

“We remain open to negotiating a land access agreement with all of the Yindjibarndi people on similar terms to the agreements Fortescue has in place with the other native title groups in the region.”

The Yindijibarndi Aboriginal Corporation first lodged the native title claim in 2003, making it one of the longest native title cases in Australia.

There has been tension between the corporation and Fortescue, as the Solomon Hub is in the same location as sacred Yindijibarndi sites.

Gaines said Fortescue had an established track record of working proactively with native title groups it shares sites with, having seven agreements providing native title royalties, heritage management, training, employment and business opportunities.

“These agreements provide significant economic and social benefits to the relevant communities,” Gaines explained.

Since 2011, Fortescue’s Billion Opportunities program has given over 284 contracts and subcontracts worth more than $2.3 billion to Aboriginal businesses and has provided training for guaranteed jobs to more than 1600 Aboriginal people.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.